NIMR develops rapid molecular test for COVID-19

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Researchers at Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) have developed molecular test for COVID-19 that gives results in less than 40 minutes

Addressing journalists in Lagos yesterday, the Director General, NIMR, Prof Babatunde Salako, said the institute developed Ribonucleic acid (RNA) extraction kits to complement the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) procedure used to diagnose COVID-19 disease.

According to him, with no effective vaccine developed to date, case detection remains the surest way of controlling the pandemic, hence the need to improve testing.

Salako said as a foremost research institute in the country, they are mandated to conduct research into diseases of public health importance like COVID-19 pandemic, which has presented a difficult management challenge to scientist and physicians all over the world.

The director general explained that they were charged to developed a point of care molecular test for COVID-19 because molecular laboratories remain limited in number and that remote areas are at disadvantaged in getting tested and testing centres are limited, and mostly available in urban areas.

He added that the recent invention would ease the challenges posed by the current method, which require very heavy laboratory and expensive equipment to function because low-skilled personnel can be trained to perform this assay in tertiary cadre of health facilities where it can be used to diagnosis COVID-19 in hospitalised patients.

The NIRM boss also stated that the research team to achieve such feat was led by Dr Chika Onwuamah, a chief research scientist of the institute.

Salako further disclosed the Fate Philanthropy Coalition against COVID (FPCC) awarded NIMR a grant of N20 million to support the in-house design and development of point-of-care isothermal real-time test detecting SARS- Cov-2, which is a key element in containing its spread and identify people infected.

We are grateful for FPCC’s support for this molecular test deployable to remote areas of Nigeria and essentially the African continent. We believe its use can concentrate on tertiary hospitals for now to aid in diagnosis of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients,” he added.

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